Hieronymus Brunschwig

Hieronymus Brunschwig, 1450, 1512

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A surgeon by trade, Brunschwig published books predominantly on medical procedures and medicines. His Cirurgia was a popular medical text in the German speaking world, containing many detailed illustrations of medical apparatus and procedures. To the natural historians, it is his work in botany that was particularly impactful.


Brunschwig’s Liber de arte distillandi, des simplicibus (1500), combined a technical manual with an herbal guidebook. It contains various recipes for medicines distilled from plants and animals as well as detailed descriptions of the equipment needed for distilling the medicines. What is unusual about this book is the detail in which the equipment and plants/animals are depicted and described. Brunschwig’s method of providing illustrations as well as written descriptions would influence how natural historians would come to depict their work across the centuries to come. His work also illustrates how the study of natural history has links to the study of medicine. 

New vollkom[m]en Distillierbuch wolgegründter künstlicher Distillation

This 1597 edition of Brunschwig’s work on distillation has been expanded upon by one Walther Hermann Ryff -- a physician and prolific writer. Ryff is an interesting character, as he had somewhat of a dubious character; he was accused of pirating translations of texts and creating copies of woodcuts to use in his publications.

Hieronymus Brunschwig